Indian government asks to WhatsApp how user data is shared

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The portal WION provides interesting news about the I.T. Indian Ministry, that asks for clarifications to WhatsApp about how user data is collected, used and shared to Facebook and any associated companies. Let’s see the details below.

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Common questions Answers
Topic about? New Terms of Service
Previous article? WhatsApp officially postpones new Terms of Service
Where can I read new Terms of Service? Terms of Service are available here.
Source? WION
TERMS OF SERVICE

In the past days the Indian government sent a letter to the WhatsApp CEO, Will Cathcart, about the recent changes of the Terms of Service (that would apparently allow Facebook to get some data of all WhatsApp users), asking for more clarifications.
The government expresses strong concerns on the privacy changes and the security risks of Indian users, even though WhatsApp declared that chats and calls are still safe with friends are family (as mentioned in our first post).
The Indian government asks to WhatsApp to respect the Indian user data security and to withdraw the upcoming terms, in detail:

  • Which data WhatsApp collects from their users, and which of them are shared with Facebook, the parent company. Phone numbers? Locations? Address Book?

WhatsApp CEO declares that phone numbers are uploaded to their servers:

This is pretty obvious, to ensure some WhatsApp features to properly work (privacy settings, broadcast lists, status updates etc…), but contact lists are never shared:

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  • A detailed explaination about the utility of any permission given to WhatsApp accepting the new terms of service, related to the features and services offered by the application and how this information is used.
  • How WhatsApp produces and saves information about Indian users on the basis of their daily usage of the application.

It must be said that the official WhatsApp account on Twitter has declared that WhatsApp does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling:

  • Explain why there is a difference between WhatsApp privacy policy in India and other countries. This is due to the General Data Protection Regulation (known as GDPR), which imposes harsh privacy standards and rules to protect European users. But why people outside Europe, so Indian users in this case, must have a different treatment?
  • WhatsApp provides a detailed page about the security on WhatsApp but they have still been asked how the end-to-end encryption works and if our messages and calls are really safe.
  • A question about meta data is also included: how they are collected and used? Metadata aren’t currently encrypted on WhatsApp, so this is a very important question.
  • Another question was about if WhatsApp shares user data with any other company (or with the parent one) associated to Facebook and how the access of our data is given.
  • The government asks if WhatsApp collected information about which apps are installed on the device, which are them, how they are used and why. For example if WhatsApp knows our usage on Twitter, YouTube and other apps.
  • Detailed information about the server where user data is transmitted or hosted.
  • A question about if user data was voluntarily offered to other third party companies and services.

These are just a part of questions. We want to remember that WhatsApp is so popular in India (more than 400 million of users), so it is legitimate to know this information, that will surely be useful to people outside India too.

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